Running in "Red America" - District 61 Virginia House of Delegates needs a Democratic candidate - Data Snapshot
No Democratic candidate has stepped up to contest in District 61 Virginia House of Delegates campaign this fall. While the initial filing deadline has passed the party can declare a candidate "by acclamation" through June 13th. Republican Tommy Wright currently holds this seat. There was a Democratic challenger in the last cycle. Despite the competition, it does appear that Wright scored a resounding victory with a margin of 7,426 votes out of 17,420 cast in the district.
Republicans took control of this seat in 1993 and Wright has been in since winning a special election in 2000. He has only had one challenge (in 2015) his entire time since winning his first general election in 2001.
Let's start looking at some data and finding out if there are any weak points here.
District 61 Fast Facts
Residents = 80,010
Active Registered Voters = 47,475
Percent Registered = 59%
Total Vote in Last Race = 17,420
Participation Rate = 37%
Total Vote for Republican last Race = 12,413
Total Vote for Democrat last Race = 4,987
Total Vote for Libertarian last Race = 20
Localities = Amelia, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Nottoway Counties
There is a total of 52 precincts in District 61. 23 in Mecklenburg County, 10 in Lunenburg County, 9 in Nottoway County, 5 in Amelia County and 5 in Cumberland County. This district is pretty large in terms of geography and the number of precincts.
Let's take a look at some more data to see where advantage may be found.
The first graphic is Active Voters Share by Locality.
What you find here is that Mecklenburg County has the largest share of active voters in this district. That makes them the obvious target for any candidate running in the area. The other counties appear to be reasonably equitable in relation to active voters overall otherwise.
Here is the Partisan Vote Share by Locality:
This bar graph highlights the importance of Mecklenburg County even more. More people did not vote there than are registered in any of the other counties. On the flip side, the largest area of support for the Republican is found in Mecklenburg also. Still, you do have to go where the most voters are to win. The priority remains Mecklenburg, but opportunities are to be found in other localities as well.
As noted above, though, the Republican crushed it last election. Let's see if precinct level data brings forward any weak points.
Republican Margin of Victory by Precinct.
One way to look at it is to see where the Republican enjoyed their narrowest victories. The idea being to work on flipping each precinct from left to right until you win enough of them to win the election. It is encouraging to see that four of the eight narrowest margins for the Republican are in Mecklenburg County. We will want to consider partisan vote share by precinct next.
Partisan Vote Share by Precinct.
Above is the chart showing the vote share by precinct. As you can see, there is some opportunity to be had in a few precincts won by the Democrat in the last cycle, but almost all of the did not vote pool to draw from is where the Republican also performs very well. That is a clear indication that the Republican works those areas fairly well. That District will be a challenge, but when you look at the American Legion precinct in Mecklenburg, precinct number Five in Amelia, Precinct 5-1 in Nottoway and even South Hill in Mecklenburg it is clear there are weak points to be exploited.
The final scatterplot shows actual vote totals for Republican and Democrat in the last race compared to total registered active voters in the district. This view of the data is even more encouraging, despite the tough race this will be. There are plenty of red dots below the line in sizable precincts. That is a good sign. There are enough blue precincts already close to the red line to work to find potential volunteers and donors as well.
This race will be tough, no doubt about it. That said, this candidate has not been challenged month in his 17 tenure in this post. If we can sustain a challenge this cycle, we can begin to loosen his grip on this seat. The data also shows enough weak points that an upset is possible in this district. We just need a candidate here. The one thing I know for sure is you can not win if you do not run; that is why we need a Full SlateTM of candidates.
Here are more reasons why we should field a full slate of candidates.
The best way, for a political party, to connect with voters is to ask for their vote. Last cycle, Democrats did not contest 44 out 100 House of Delegates seat in Virginia. Those 44 seats represent roughly 3,520,000 Virginians. It does not matter your view on the issues, if a party does not run candidates in your district, it is less likely you will support that party consistently. If Democrats do not ask for these votes, the message to Virginians living in these mostly rural districts is the Democratic Party is not interested in their concerns.
This issue is not unique to Virginia either. In the last cycle, Democrats did not compete in 1,479 state legislative races nationwide. The districts we did not compete in represent more that 117,000,000 people. We often ask how people in "red America" can so consistently vote against their interests.
They are not voting against their interests at all; they are simply voting for those showing an interest in them.
As noted above, it is of critical importance we try to field candidates in as many districts as possible. If you can run, please do. These state legislative races are vital to our Democracy. They are the most local seats with enumerated powers in our Constitution. The power to change our Constitution rests in the state legislatures hands, and Republicans only need 24 more seats to control the number of states they need to do just that.
We need people to step up across Virginia. We are doing well contesting 82 of 100 districts this cycle. That said, if we want to start to bridge the rural and urban divide, if we want to represent all people across the state, heck across the nation, we need to step up and ask for their votes. Let's work together find a great candidate to challenge for this seat and to find candidates in the other 17 districts across the state that needs a Democratic challenger as yet. Let's run a Full Slate TM.